I went to Sadler's Wells tonight to see Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's En atendant, a piece she originally created to be performed at sunset/dusk, with the light slowly fading.
The piece was full of beautiful moments, but I spent most of the time wondering 'Why do you have to make it so difficult for yourself, ATDK? Why?'. Obviously she is an artist with a vision, a craft, a style, but I really wish she put herself in the audience's shoes sometimes, and she just tried to meet us halfway.
Why oh why couldn't they afford costumes, or simple things that would make us feel like the piece had more production values and wasn't just plain dry choreography? It is more than that of course, but I must say my heart sank a little bit when the singer came out in her jeans and purple top, and when the first dancer walked in with her little black dress and blue adidas trainers.
I started by having to consciously ignore the bland lighting and the dancers' boring black clothes - the female dancers would actually tuck their dresses into their pants (!). For sure it helped me focus on the movement and the music, but it would have been so nice to just go 'oh what pretty stuff they are wearing' and move on from there.
I loved the music used in the piece (early, medieval, ars sutilor from the 14th century, performed live by a singer and two musicians), but unfortunately there were also long moments of choreography in silence. These often looked to me like choreographic games we the audience didn't know the rules of, so they were a bit baffling.
I liked the choreography though: lots of balances and shifts of weight between dancers (there was this repeated movement of the right foot nesting itself on the back of the bending left knee and the body jolting backwards), some beautiful group work with knots of necks, arms and torsos being tied and untied, walks across the stage to the rhythm of the viola, the voice or the flute and more.
So by the end, I am thinking 'this is beautiful but how flippin' alienating'.
And then, two beautiful moments: a young, blonde, male dancer lies on the floor, puts one arm behind his head and looks towards the audience. Then he stands to take off his shorts. He is naked underneath, and he takes the same pose, and just breathes there for a minute or two. It's immensely erotic (and probably still fairly alienating to be fair).
As the lights dim and start to turn off, another male dancer ends the piece with an astounding solo. He too is naked, and his white body can be seen, glimpsed and just made in the darkness that enfolds him, his breathing the sole soundtrack. It's simple, but that image proved to me that ATDK can do beautiful and accessible when she wants to! And there will be an audience for that, and they won't leave before the end.